What is posture?
Posture is the way we hold ourselves or our body segments in relation to one another and their orientation in space. Our body positioning can be intentional or unintentional. Posture has two main purposes:
- Antigravity – to provide the rigidity needed to maintain an erect posture against gravity
- Interface with the outside world – to orientate the body segments to interact with the environment
The body structure is a very complex system. It is naturally unstable, but highly flexible, which allows for a wide variety of postures but also makes it very vulnerable to damage. Posture is influenced by body shape and size, the supporting surface, and even health or emotional state.
Why good posture is important
Good posture is important because it:
- Enables independence
- Encourages interaction
- Promotes physiological function
- Manages comfort levels and quality of life
When poor seated posture is adopted over prolonged periods of time, such as when in a wheelchair, a person can experience:
- Muscle fatigue and associated pains e.g. lower back pain or neck pain
- Organ dysfunction e.g. breathing and digestion
- Limitations in activity e.g. difficulty with eating and drinking
- Limited range of movement in joints and/or altered body shape
- Other health issues e.g. pressure ulcers, bowel and/or bladder problems
Good posture for wheelchair users
Adopting good posture:
- Facilitates effective functional performance
- Is energy efficient
- Does not harm the body systems
There are a number of factors that wheelchair users need to consider when choosing their chair seat:
- Height – too high will lead to insufficient foot support, reduced stability and will increase the risk of sliding down the chair.
- Depth – too long can encourage sliding down and can increase the risk of pressure ulcers
- Width – too wide can make the pelvis move unequally and encourage leaning to the side
This makes it very important to choose a wheelchair that suits your body shape and size.